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Social Fund

Volume 164: debated on Monday 8 January 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the cash limit for social fund loans and grants from Department of Social Security offices at Finsbury park and Highgate for 1989–90 and the amount expended by 18 December in the current year.

Information on social fund allocations to local offices is placed in the Library. Finsbury park and Highgate are included. That information is updated monthly.

The Minister has not given much information that would be of help to anyone. Why is it that in the case of Finsbury park social security office, of the 139 applications for community care made grants during December, 31 were allowed but 61—nearly half—were disallowed, and the remainder carried forward to the next month? That has been happening month after month in the two offices named in my question. Will the Minister put a stop to the practice of carrying forward applications from one month to another so that applicants have to wait longer and longer for desperately needed community care grants? No increase in the cash limit is made available the following year, so in reality the amount of money available for grants to people in my area, as in many other areas of inner London, decreases year on year. People desperately in need of community care grants cannot obtain them, and they suffer as a consequence.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will avail himself of the information that has been placed in the Library to help all right hon. and hon. Members assess the situation at their local social security offices. Some applications in any local office will inevitably slip from one month to the next if they are made late in the month. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not mention in his supplementary question that an extra £3 million was allocated recently to some local offices under particular pressure. Highgate office was one of the beneficiaries.

Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether anyone has applied for a social fund loan at the Finsbury park office, who has contracted AIDS as a result of an operation or a blood transfusion, but who is not a haemophiliac? If so, will he put those people into the same category as haemophiliacs, and ensure that they receive the welcome assistance that is now being given to haemophiliacs?

I suspect that my hon. Friend will not expect me to know whether there are such applications at the Finsbury office, but I shall consider the matter that she raised.

Would not the position in Finsbury park, Highgate and other offices be massively improved if the Government allowed local offices, as they collect back loans, to keep them to add to the social fund?

Of course, the rate of recovery of money from loans affects the national kitty, and resources available nationally. The allocation to local offices is best met by an assessment by us, at the centre, the likely burden, and of the level of need in the local area. I should be reluctant to link the rate of recovery specifically to the resources available in local offices, as that might not reflect the level of need as well as the present system of allocation does.